For the first time in six years, I spent nearly an entire week kid free! Well, sort of. My three biological children stayed with their grandparents while my husband and I were whisked away on a passionate week-long getaway to . . . teen camp. Yes, we packed our bags to haul around twenty teenagers to Global Youth Camp in Chatsworth, Georgia. If I’m being honest here, I almost didn’t go. If you haven’t figured it out by now, it’s no secret that I’m a worrier. So of course, I had irrational thoughts like these:
I’m abandoning my children.
I’m a horrible mother for pushing my kids off onto someone else.
My kids are going to hate me.
What if I DIE before I can make it back to them?!
Crazy thoughts! But soon after we entered the campgrounds, it quickly became apparent that I was meant to be there. I witnessed our teens getting out of their comfort zones in ways that would even be difficult for adults. This camp is different in that it teaches kids character and places a heavy influence on serving and ministering to others’ needs by providing mission work opportunities. Our group in particular was able to spend time with children in need, do manual labor to help an elderly couple, and volunteer at a local animal rescue. Observing these teens being stretched and pushed outside their limits brought me to a few conclusions about parenting.
- We don’t push our kids enough. We worry so much about them failing and hurting their precious self-esteems that we neglect to teach them that it’s good to try new things. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s difficult. But in our endeavors to protect our children, we actually stunt their growth and lower their self-confidence. If we do everything for them and never show them the truth about this hurting world we live in, then how will anything ever change? We might just be raising ignorant, self-serving members of society. But as I watched a group of teenagers get down in the muck dirty (literally) and really serve others in need, a spark of hope ignited inside me. This is what I need to be teaching my children. If I don’t push them outside of their comfort zones, then they will never learn that they CAN make a difference. They will become couch warming, tech savvy world criticizers rather than self-motivated, hard-working world changers. And God knows, we need some world changers!
- We don’t trust our kids enough. In fact, we can be one giant oxymoron. In one breath we insist we want to nurture their self-esteems, but in the next, we exhale pessimism such as, “It’s too hard for you right now. Just let me do it.” Or “You’re too young.” The best way to instill confidence in our children is to show them we are confident in their abilities. Allow them to work alongside us. Give them responsibilities, and guide them to use their creativity and the resources available to complete their tasks. Then, we can sit back and watch these mini-adults far surpass our expectations. When we show them that we truly believe in them, it’s surprising how much they will accomplish! Sure, they will run into complications and will face struggles. But in those times, we will have the opportunity to provide encouragement and demonstrate our trust in their abilities. If we simply do the work ourselves in those difficult moments, then we only teach them that they are not capable. We must offer trust if we ever want to witness real growth in our kids.
- We don’t walk the walk as much as we talk the talk enough. There’s a difference between knowing what’s right and doing what’s right. We instruct our kids to use self-control, but we holler at them when we get frustrated with their behavior as if it’s warranted in certain situations for us to lose our self-control. We express with our mouths the importance of being kind to others, yet we pretend we don’t see the elderly woman with hand quivering and arms outstretched, struggling to reach an item on the very top shelf at the grocery store because we’re in a hurry, after all. We teach with our words every single day, but if we could never speak another word, would our children know how to treat others? Would they see us serve and love without exception? If they mimicked our every move, would their actions make us proud?
It’s fascinating how much a simple teen camp at the top of a mountain taught me about myself and my parenting. I am humbled and inspired to do more—to accept my motherhood calling with fervency and urgency. I’m ready to push my kids to their greatest potential, trust them to complete their tasks and responsibilities, and show them through my own actions how to make a real difference in this world. Enough with the talking, the planning, and the prepping. Let’s DO something! Our kids are ready.